India needs Clinical Professor of Law | Kalpeshkumar L Gupta


India needs Clinical Professor of Law
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India needs Clinical Professor of Law

India Needs Clinical Professor of Law
- Dr. Kalpeshkumar L Gupta

Present lawyers don’t possess required practical skills what they are supposed to have. Biggest reason behind the same is lack of practical training during course of three year of five years course. Clinical Legal Education word which is popular in foreign countries, missing in Indian context. We have tried to implement this concept by adding clinical papers in our curriculum but those are more theoretical in nature as other papers are. Secondly, efforts are made to achieve the goal of clinical legal education by way of legal aid clinics/committees which is the mandate for every legal education institutions. Presently small part of clinical work executed by faculty who looks after legal aid clinic/committee in his/her respective institution. More than 1200 LEIs are there across the country including 22 National Law Schools/Universities. As per my knowledge hardly 10% of legal education institutions’ legal aid clinic/committee working in letter and spirit and giving desired results while others are for the name sake. It is mandatory to have legal aid clinic in legal education institutions but we all know the bitter reality. Shortage of faculty is one of the reason plus absence of inclination towards legal aid work. There is no motivation for faculty as well as for students to involve themselves in legal aid work. 

Clinical Legal Education

Clinical legal education is a progressive educational ideology and pedagogy that is most often implemented through university programs. Clinics are interactive, hands-on classrooms that promote learning by doing. [1]
“Clinical Legal Education (CLE) programs provide pro bono services to the community while educating the next generation of social justice, pro bono champions.”

CLE helps to achieve two goals first it helps the society at large to achieve justice and second for law students to get practical exposure. Legal Aid Clinics/Cell/Committee helps to achieve goal of CLE to the some extent. Scope of Legal Aid is limited compared to CLE. We can say Legal Aid is subset of CLE. CLE focus on overall practical implementation of almost all laws studied in the classroom.

Clinical Legal Education at Harvard Law School

HLS is known for its clinical work across the world. Dedicated faculty help to achieve the goal of clinical legal education.
Clinical Faculty at Harvard
Harvard Law School has 17 Clinical Professors of Law and more than 60 Lecturers on Law, Clinical Instructors and Fellows on staff, who are expert practitioners in their fields and passionately devoted to mentoring students in their professional development. The clinical faculty not only teach clinical courses but also carry active caseloads of their own. This practical experience is invaluable as they supervise and guide students in developing their own practice skills and client relationships. With the remarkable breadth of resources at Harvard, students are carefully matched by their practitioner-supervisors with cases that meet their skill levels and educational interests. Clinical Legal Education is provided through exclusive courses offered in various clinics.

Clinics at Harvard [4]
In house Clinic
1.    Criminal Justice Institute
2.    Cyber Law Clinic
3.    Education Law Clinic of the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative
4.    Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic
5.    Food Law and Policy Clinic
6.    Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic
7.    Crimmigration Clinic
8.    Harvard Legal Aid Bureau*
9.    Harvard Dispute Systems Design Clinic
10.    Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program
11.    Health Law and Policy Clinic
12.    Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation
13.    International Human Rights Clinic; Advanced – International Human Rights Clinic
14.    Family and Domestic Violence Law Clinic
15.    Federal Tax Clinic
16.    Housing Law Clinic
17.    Predatory Lending and Consumer Protection Clinic
18.    Veterans Law and Disability Benefits Clinic
19.    Transactional Law Clinics

Externship Clinic
1.    Capital Punishment Clinic
2.    Child Advocacy Clinic
3.    Criminal Justice Appellate Clinic
4.    Criminal Prosecution Clinic
5.    Democracy and the Rule of Law Clinic
6.    Employment Law Clinic
7.    Government Lawyer: State Attorney General Clinic
8.    Government Lawyer: Semester in Washington Clinic
9.    Government Lawyer: United States Attorney Clinic
10.    Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic
11.    Sports Law Clinic
12.    Supreme Court Litigation Clinic

Student Practice Organizations
1.    HLS Advocates for Human Rights
2.    Harvard Defenders
3.    HLS Immigration Project
4.    Harvard Mediation Program
5.    Mississippi Delta Project
6.    Harvard Law Entrepreneurship Project
7.    Prison Legal Assistance Project
8.    Tenant Advocacy Project
9.    Recording Artists Project

Advanced Clinical Programme
With approval of the clinic, the Advanced Clinical Program allows students to continue their clinical work into subsequent semesters and across academic years.

Independent Clinical Programme
The Independent Clinical Program gives students - who are interested in a specialized area of the law or field of practice that is not currently offered in HLS’s existing clinical curriculum - an opportunity to be entrepreneurial and design a custom placement that will meet their individualized learning goals.

*Harvard Legal Aid Bureau [2]

The Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB) is unique among HLS programs of clinical legal education in that its legal services program is student-run. Founded in 1913, HLAB has a long history of responding to the legal needs of low-income people in the greater Boston area. The Bureau consists of approximately 50 second- and third-year student members who make two-year commitments to the Bureau’s program of clinical education and legal services to the indigent community. Student membership in HLAB carries with it an integrated two-year academic and clinical training in legal practice skills and ethics. HLAB members are expected to devote at least 20 hours per week of clinical practice and related activities.
Students represent indigent clients in civil matters in the Massachusetts courts, before administrative agencies, before legislative bodies, and in various other fora. Working under the supervision of eight clinical instructors who collectively have extensive public interest and private practice experience, all students assume direct responsibility for representation of clients from intake interview to final disposition. Each year the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau handles over 300 cases in varied practice areas, including family law, housing law, wage and hour law, government benefits, and Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) matters. Bureau practice frequently involves appearances by student attorneys before state courts, hearing officers, and administrative law judges. Students also have the opportunity to engage in other forms of advocacy, including the following task forces, community lawyering partnerships, and clinics for pro se litigants:
1.    Attorney-for-the-Day at Boston Housing Court
2.    Attorney-for-the-Day at Suffolk Family and Probate Court
3.    Benefits Practice (SSI/SSDI/DUA)
4.    Community Lawyering Task Force
5.    Eviction Clinic
6.    Family Practice Task Force (FPTF)
7.    Racial Justice Task Force (RJTF)
8.    Wage & Hour Practice (including Mass AG Wage Theft Clinic)
9.    Y2Y Youth Homeless Shelter
10.    City Life / Vida Urbana

Because the Bureau is a student-run legal services program, members and their elected student board of directors are responsible for the governance of the organization.

Student work includes:
•    Engaging in factual and legal research
•    Client interviewing and counselling
•    Negotiating agreements
•    Drafting legal memoranda
•    Arguing motions and trying cases before a court or jury
•    Drafting legislation and promoting policy reform
•    Cultivating and sustaining partnerships with community organizations

Clinical Professor of Law – Possibility in India

As we saw clinical programme structure at HLS, it is next to impossible to implement this type of large scale programme in our country. But we can surely learn from their best practices in certain programmes and implement in our law schools at small scale gradually making it bigger one. Idea of having dedicated faculty for CLE has not found place in our country but it can certainly be deliberated on and be implemented. It is not feasible to have dedicated faculty in legal education institutions in India other than National Law Schools/Universities set up different states under respective state laws and other prominent ones which competes with NLUs. It is always possible for them to appoint dedicated faculty i.e. Clinical Professor of Law supported by some minimal staff arrangement looking at infrastructure and resource available. Minimum experience for clinical professor of law can be set for 10 years or 7 years having specialised degree in clinical legal education/legal aid work. Clinical Professor of Law appointed in respective NLU can play pivotal role in developing CLE in respective states. He/She can organise workshop, training programmes for law teachers in the state supported by proposed Expert Committee on Clinical Legal Education & Training to be set up under Model Legal Education Bill, 2019. Present bill proposed by the author earlier this year to bring reform in legal education in the country. Bill can be accessed here

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